In the News

USATF Athlete of the Week Sonja Friend-Uhl tells why she skipped shot at Malaga gold

The nationThe nation’s Capitol looms over Navy Mile, where Sonja set an age-group record. (She’s somewhere in back.)

On the final day of Malaga worlds, Courtney Babcock of Canada won the W45 1500 in 4:47.88. That’s the No. 3 time in the world this season, according to mastersrankings.com. No. 1 is the 4:39.15 by American Sonja Friend-Uhl last March. So where was Sonja? At home in Florida, getting ready two weeks later for the Navy Mile on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Her road mile mark of 5:06.33 beat the old course record by more than 10 seconds, and Friday she was named USATF Athlete of the Week.

“She finished 11th in the elite women’s race as she added another national record to the indoor marks she set earlier this year,” USATF noted. In January, she ran an indoor mile in 4:59.99 (and was named USATF Athlete of the Week in February).

On Sunday, Sonja graciously replied to some queries, including why he wasn’t in Spain. She also shared news of a new Facebook group called Competitive Masters Women. (Stay tuned for my reply: Submediocre Masters Men.)

Here’s what she told me:

The 5:06 was not a surprise because I know that I can still run close to a 5:00 mile when I’m aerobically strong, even when I’m not focused on speed or mile specific work. (At least for the near future!).

I felt I was fit enough to run something between 4:59 and 5:03. I went out in 73, a few strides behind the lead group, which felt right on. When I lost more contact with that group in front, and had already pulled ahead of the women behind me, I fell off pace. I think that’s where not being sharp and having honed your speed/turnover plays in.

Aerobically I could have stayed on pace (was looking to come through 1/2 mile in 2:27-2:28), but instead fell asleep at the wheel a bit and ran a 79. So the half was 2:32. That woke me up, as well as the fact I could feel (and see) I was gaining on some of the women from the original lead pack.

I went through the turnaround and surged for 100 meters or so, catching a couple of runners by 3/4 mile, which I hit in 3:48. There was another runner about 20 meters in front that I targeted to try to beat to the line. I fell short by about a half a second, but I was grateful to have her there to push me through the finish.

Could I have won the 45-49 1500m at worlds? While I still have the world’s leading time for 2018 in that event, I am experienced enough to know that a race is a race — meaning that it would be presumptuous and unfair of me to say I could have won when I wasn’t there to compete.

I will tell you that I would have 500 percent been in the hunt. I know how to strategically race championship rounds and I have the fitness and turnover range to manage the volume and the surges. The Europeans are very skilled at this and I think in hindsight it’s something perhaps some of our U.S. athletes that do not have that experience could have benefited from (via a premeet round table, coaching, insight from others, etc).

Why I didn’t go to Malaga: I chose to end my 2018 track season at the Portland Track Festival in June, and not go to nationals or worlds for two primary reasons:

1) My family. My daughters are both at ages where they need their mom present, not just passing through, especially during the beginning of the school year. I travel quite a bit for my job (master trainer with Stairmaster & Nautilus) and when you add that time away to the meets I race in all year, plus the meets I coach with FAU, it can get to be a lot. My oldest leaves for college next and I made a commitment to put her first this year as much as I could.

2) My health. I had been struggling with overall fatigue and just feeling “off” somehow since May. When I raced that masters mile in Portland, I was so detached emotionally and physically from that race. By that point. my body was on autopilot, doing what it knew to do (mechanically), but with no fire or zeal.

I was burned out from trying to keep myself “up” and knew it was time for a break. What I found out after blood work a few weeks ago is that my thyroid is functioning well below normal. I had minor issues with this in the past and was being monitored, but it had taken a plunge since April (coincidentally the last time I felt good!).

I’m on new medicine for that and will be monitored via labs every six weeks for awhile to make sure it’s improving. I also started acupuncture, which I believe will be holistically healing, long term.

Masters female runners (mostly ages 40-55) deal with a tremendous amount of challenges via hormonal shifts. There really isn’t enough resources or info out there unless you dig it up. We are starting to talk amongst ourselves more and support each other, so I hope we can change this for the better for aging female competitive runners in the future.
For the rest of this year and early 2019: I have another XC meet I’ll race with FAU next weekend, then a road 10K in November, and a few more road races in December and January.

Indoor track is definitely on the schedule for January into March as well as USATF XC Nationals in Tallahassee in early February. Indoor worlds is a possibility, but it will depend on family and work schedules.

I am learning to take it one season at a time, so I don’t want to jump too much farther ahead than that!


Friend-Uhl runs record road mile to earn USATF Athlete of the Week

Sonja Friend-Uhl (Boca Raton, Florida) broke the masters women’s 45-49 road mile record to earn USATF Athlete of the Week for the second time in 2018.

Friend-Uhl, 47, clocked 5:06.33 at the Navy Mile on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., to trim more than 10 seconds off the existing record. She finished 11th in the elite women’s race as she added another national record to the indoor marks she set earlier this year.

Other notable performances from the weekend:

 

Ian Whatley — Whatley was the top men’s finisher at the USATF 40 km Race Walk Championships at Owego, New York, with a 3:52:42.

Lydia McGranahan — McGranahan was the top women’s finisher at the USATF 30 km Race Walk Championships in 4:02:16.

Joseph Gray — Gray was the men’s winner of the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships in Wisconsin, covering the 13.1 miles in 1:13:16 for a 27-second victory margin.

Megan Roche — Roche led from start to finish to win the women’s USATF Half Marathon Trail Championship in 1:27:31, more than three minutes ahead of the runner-up.

Alicia Monson — Monson, a junior at Wisconsin, won the women’s 6K race at the Nuttycombe Invitational cross country meet in Madison in 19:33.3.

 

Now in its 17th year, USATF’s Athlete of the Week program is designed to recognize outstanding performers at all levels of the sport. USATF names a new honoree each week and features the athlete on USATF.org. Selections are based on top performances and results from the previous week.

2018 Winners: January 4, Brian Herron; January 11, Katelyn Tuohy; January 18, Molly Huddle; January 25, Christian Coleman; February 1, Sonja Friend-Uhl; February 8, Emily Infeld; February 15, Kendra Harrison; February 22, Christian Coleman; March 1, Sydney McLaughlin; March 8, Courtney Okolo; March 15, Da’mira Allen; March 22, Lesley Hinz; March 29, Caitlin Collier; April 4, Sydney McLaughlin; April 11, Maria Michta-Coffey; April 18, Desiree Linden; April 25, Twanisha Terry; May 3, Jenny Simpson; May 10, Galen Rupp; May 17, Tori Franklin; May 24, Robyn Stevens; May 31, Ryan Crouser; June 6, DeAnna Price; June 13, Michael Norman; June 20, Alyssa Wilson; June 27, Shelby Houlihan; July 5, Neil Howard III; July 11, Bernard Lagat; July 18, Eric Harrison Jr.; July 25, Courtney Frerichs; August 3, Sianni Wynn; August 8, Lopez Lomong; August 15, Taylor Ewert; August 23, David Angell; August 30, Ronnie Baker; September 6, Christian Coleman; September 13, DeAnna Price; September 20, Charles Allie; September 27, Katelyn Tuohy; October 3, Sonja Friend-Uhl.

We welcome your nominations!

To nominate an athlete for USATF Athlete of the Week, please send a detailed email about his/her performance to communications@usatf.org.

Fans can follow along with #USATF on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.


Sonja Friend-Uhl Wins USATF Masters 1,000

With a fast time of 2:56.65, Sonja Friend-Uhl won the Masters Women’s 1,000 meters race Sunday at the USATF Indoor Championships at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sonja, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, races for the Atlanta Track Club.

About the race, she said, “I was conservative over the beginning. I just wanted to run even and kick with what I had left. I felt I could have run a little faster in the beginning, but I’m happy with the result. I wanted to go under 3 minutes and I did that. I was a little anxious about it. It is so great to be here as a masters athlete with all these open athletes. The track is amazing. I love this track – it’s a fast track.”

Article was Featured in The Running Journal. 

 


Sonja Friend-Uhl broke Joan’s American record for 3000 meters in the W45 age group.

Sonja is a strong favorite at ABQ nationals in the 800 and mile. She’s also entered in the 400.In the early summer of 1984, 12-year-old Sonja Friend ran a 400 meters in the ARCO Jesse Owens Games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Months later, she recalled watching Joanie Benoit on TV, winning the 1984 Olympic marathon at the same site. On Saturday, Sonja Friend-Uhl broke Joan’s American record for 3000 meters in the W45 age group. In response to questions, Coach Sonja graciously shared details of the sub-10 race at Boston University. First thing I asked about were injuries she suffered last year. (Sonja had to scratch from the masters 1500 exhibition at the Eugene Olympic Trials because of the remnants of a hamstring pull and plantar fasciitis in her right foot.)

Read more here!


Sonja Friend-Uhl thought 9:50 possible for 3000 before W45 AR

In the early summer of 1984, 12-year-old Sonja Friend ran a 400 meters in the ARCO Jesse Owens Games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Months later, she recalled watching Joanie Benoit on TV, winning the 1984 Olympic marathon at the same site. On Saturday, Sonja Friend-Uhl broke Joan’s American record for 3000 meters in the W45 age group. In response to questions, Coach Sonja graciously shared details of the sub-10 race at Boston University. First thing I asked about were injuries she suffered last year. (Sonja had to scratch from the masters 1500 exhibition at the Eugene Olympic Trials because of the remnants of a hamstring pull and plantar fasciitis in her right foot.)

Masterstrack.com: Feel any of your old injuries at Boston?

Sonja Friend-Uhl: Not the hamstring or the plantar. My left posterior tibial tendon has been a bit tender since the half-marathon two weeks ago, but it held up just fine.

Were others in the race aware of your record attempt?

No. My coaches were and members of the [Florida Atlantic University] team, but other than that just a private goal.
What does it mean to beat a Joan Benoit Samuelson record?

I didn’t realize that’s who held it previously until you sent me this! I am honored, of course. I remember watching Joanie on TV winning the Olympic marathon in 1984 in LA. I had raced in the coliseum earlier that summer for the ARCO Jesse Owens Games. I ran the 400 in 64 seconds as a 12-year-old in that meet.  She was a significant running idol to me and still is for all she has contributed to our sport.

Sub-10 is a barrier breaker. Was that your goal?   

Yes. I knew something around 9:50 was possible based on my workouts. [Two years ago, Sonja set the W40 American indoor record of 9:50.37 at Winston-Salem.]

How did the race develop?  What was last lap like?

I was careful to run relaxed and within myself the first mile. Ideally I was targeting 5:15, but the leaders were a bit off of that and I felt I was best to be patient. After the 8th lap or so, the pace had slowed to 41+ for the 200 so I knew I needed to pick it back up, which is when I took over the lead. Another collegiate runner came up on me with about 4 laps to go. Honestly, I was glad because this kept me pushing. The last 600 was tough, but I did feel strong the last lap.

Did you get recognition at the meet for record?

They announced it after the race, but it was pretty noisy in there!

How did you celebrate?

Cheered on my Atlanta Track Club teammates and the FAU women I help coach in the 5000!

What major meets or record attempts do you have coming up?

I will race at Penn State this coming Saturday. Then Masters indoor nationals and hopefully the Masters Exhibition 1000mat the Open U.S. Indoor Nationals. The mile and the 800 45-49 age-group records are also great targets. I’m taking it one meet at a time. 🙂

Anything else folks should know about the Boston run?

That is an extremely efficient and well-organized meet! There were over a hundred entries in some events and they still ran everything on time. The shape and surface of the track are also outstanding. Very fast! I highly recommend this meet.


Sonja Friend-Uhl Wins USATF Masters 1,000

With a fast time of 2:56.65, Sonja Friend-Uhl won the Masters Women’s 1,000 meters race Sunday at the USATF Indoor Championships at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sonja, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, races for the Atlanta Track Club.

About the race, she said, “I was conservative over the beginning. I just wanted to run even and kick with what I had left. I felt I could have run a little faster in the beginning, but I’m happy with the result. I wanted to go under 3 minutes and I did that. I was a little anxious about it. It is so great to be here as a masters athlete with all these open athletes. The track is amazing. I love this track – it’s a fast track.”




Running Times Masters

By Marc Bloom

Sonja Friend-Uhl, who has won 22 national masters’ championships in road, track and cross-country since turning 40 in 2011, has no problem running fast. She just has to find the time to do it.

Friend-Uhl celebrated her 44th birthday in March on the weekend of the 2015 USATF Masters Indoor Championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Friend-Uhl, who lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, outside Nashville, with her husband and two daughters, swept the women’s 40-44 800, mile and 3,000 meters. In the 3k, Friend-Uhl triumphed by 55 seconds in 9:50.37 to set an American masters indoor 40-44 record.

Friend-Uhl, who won the World Masters Championships 40-44 800 and 1500 when the meet was held in Sacramento, California, in the summer of 2011, set a world masters 40-44 indoor mile record of 4:44.81 in 2012 and an American masters outdoor 1500 record, 4:16.99, that same year.

While Friend-Uhl has risen to prominence as a middle-distance specialist on the track, half of her national masters’ titles have come on the road and in cross-country, in distances ranging from the 5k to the half-marathon. She has also run two marathons, both in Florida where she used to live, with a 2:49 PR. “I prefer the intensity of the track,” she says.

Seeking intensity wherever she could find it, Friend-Uhl traveled to Japan in 1992 for the Lifesaving World Championships. She won the 2k Beach Run and was named World Champion in the event. She won it again in 1998, this time in New Zealand. That gives Friend-Uhl major titles on four running surfaces: track, road, turf and sand—surf and turf, if you will.

A hallmark of Friend-Uhl’s repertoire is her speed. As recently as last year, at 43, she ran the 800 in 2:10.79.and split 61.12 on a 4 x 400 relay. The U.S. 40-44 record is 2:07.57, by Alisa Harvey, who did it at 41. In early June, at the Music City Distance Festival in Nashville, Friend-Uhl planned to go after Harvey’s 40-44 outdoor mile record of 4:46.29.

Friend-Uhl has been racing non-stop for close to 30 years. She was a state champion in high school in Delaware, a collegiate star at William & Mary and, as a professional, a member of six U.S. national teams competing abroad. For the most part, they were far-flung events, like “Ekiden” relays in China, Japan and Korea. Another was the first IAAF world road racing championship, a 20k in Hungary, in 2006.

On one of her Ekiden trips, to Beijing, in 2005, Friend-Uhl and her American teammates went out for a run on the morning of their flight home. They got lost and wound up in a remote town, where shocked villagers berated them with threatening gestures. The chastened U.S. women dropped their pace to 6 minutes a mile making a getaway. With Friend-Uhl’s direction as the elder of the team–“My motherly instincts kicked in,” she said–the athletes found their way back safely, but not before finishing with an extended 14-miler. They all made it to the airport on time.

That flair under duress was a taste of Friend-Uhl’s typical balancing act. In addition to her daily workouts, and parenting two daughters, she puts in 20 to 25 hours a week as Physical Wellness Director of Cool Springs MD, a Nashville area wellness center, and travels the country as a Lead Trainer for Star Tracks, a fitness equipment manufacturer based in Vancouver, Washington. In addition, Friend-Uhl, who competes for the Atlanta Track Club, does private coaching for select on-line clients, while coaching a number of runners in person as well. She’s also a volunteer assistant at Vanderbilt University, mentoring the women’s track and cross-country runners.

“I’ve always had tremendous drive,” Friend-Uhl said as she prepared to get her outdoor track season rolling. Even in high school–I was in the band, choir and student government. I ran track, played basketball.”

Nowadays, while every second counts for Friend-Uhl on the track, every minute counts in her day or week. In March, she achieved her masters’ indoor track triple while suffering with a sinus infection. “I know I have to be careful not to drive myself into the ground,” she says. “But I feel most ‘alive’ when I’m pushing myself.”

It’s no wonder that at times Sonja and her husband, Brad Uhl, who works for the Department of Justice, have to call in emergency reinforcements–Sonja’s mom from Florida or Brad’s mom from Pennsylvania–to help with daughters Brianna, 13, and Alexa, 6.

Friend-Uhl—part Polish, Irish and Native American–has an array of certification degrees in health, fitness and nutrition. She never misses an opportunity to multi-task. On a trip to Atlanta for Brianna’s volleyball tournament, Sonja scooted over to Georgia Tech for a track workout: 3 sets of 1 mile and 400 with a lap jog recovery between each run. She averaged 5:35 in the miles and 66 seconds in the 400s.

In 2000, at 29, Friend-Uhl had her best year. She achieved her lifetime PRs of 2:06.4 in the 800 and 4:13.9 in the 1500. With her 4:16.99 1500 in 2012, Friend-Uhl has only slowed 3 seconds in 12 years, from 29 to 41. How many top milers, male or female, could equal that record of “agelessness”?

Friend-Uhl recognizes that, reaching her mid-40s, she walks a fine line between ambition and reality. After outstanding 2011 and 2012 seasons, she lost valuable time in 2013 to recurrent injury. “I can be my own worst enemy,” says Friend-Uhl, who trains 45 to 50 miles a week. “Not just in workouts but in going overboard in races and losing my focus.”

To help control her zeal, and get relief from the pressures of designing her own program, Friend-Uhl this year enlisted the services of former pros Andrew and Amy Begley, the Atlanta Track Club coaches. The Begleys have already been a big help, says Friend-Uhl. Early in the spring, while still recovering from her illness, Sonja was itching to hop a plane to California for the Carlsbad 5,000. Andy talked her out of it.

This summer, in addition to competing in the USA masters outdoor nationals in Jacksonville, Florida, Friend-Uhl was hoping to run the women’s masters 3,000-meter “exhibition” at the USA Nationals, June 25 to 28, in Eugene, Oregon. She’ll be aiming for the American 40-44 record of 9:27.45 set by Carmen Troncoso in 2000.

“I really appreciate the masters,” says Friend-Uhl. “We celebrate what we do and embrace one another. By pushing me, my opponents help me discover a better version of myself.” #

TRAINING LOG
Leading up to USA Masters Nationals Indoor Track & Field Championships, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, March 20-22, in which Friend-Uhl won the women’s 40-44 800 meters, mile and 3,000 meters, setting U.S. 40-44 indoor 3k record of 9:50.37.

Week Starting March 9, 2015

Monday
8 miles easy plus strength/core circuit

Tuesday
5 miles easy plus 5 x 100m strides

Wednesday
2-mile warm-up; 3 sets of 500, 300, 300, 200, 200 with 600 jog recovery between sets.
Times for 500s: 85 to 88 seconds. Times for 300s: 48 to 49 seconds. Times for 200s: 30-31 seconds. 2-mile cool-down. Plus strength/core circuit.

Thursday
6 miles easy

Friday
5 miles easy plus 5 x 100m strides

Saturday
2-mile warm-up; 4 sets of 1000 in 3:07 to 3:11 with 600 jog recovery between runs; 2-mile cool-down. Plus strength/core circuit.

Sunday
Off.

Week Starting March 16, 2015

Monday
5 miles easy plus strength/core circuit

Tuesday
5 miles easy plus 5 x 100m strides

Wednesday
2-mile warm-up; 6 x 300 in 55 to 56 seconds and 6 x 100; 3 x strides; 1-mile cool-down. Plus strength/core circuit.

Thursday
3 miles easy plus 5 x 100m strides

Friday
USA masters indoor 3,000 meters, 1st place 40-44, U.S. record, 9:50.37

Saturday
USA masters indoor mile, 1st place 40-44, 5:03.06

Sunday
USA masters indoor 800 meters, 1st place, 40-44, 2:17.42